Ramadan 2021

Ramadan: Fasting correctly can make you more healthy

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on April 28, 2021
A man offers prayers in Dubai during Ramadan. — Photo by Shihab

Nutritious diet, hydration and exercise can help you lose weight during holy month

A combination of nutritional food, hydration during non-fasting hours and a good dose of moderate to high intensity exercise when the body is refuelled can work wonders.

Several studies have pointed out the benefits of intermittent fasting which can trigger autophagy — Greek for eating up one’s own body cells. According to the Japanese Nobel Prize winning cell biologist Yoshinori Oshumi, a sustained period of fasting helps the body to clear the debris of dead cells in the body and trigger deep cellular and tissue regeneration, while promoting anti-ageing.

A 2015 article published in Nature pointed out how autophagy was a natural process by which the body clears out unwanted and dysfunctional cells in the body. All religions promote some sort of fasting.

Voluntary abstinence from food and water during the holy month of Ramadan can help body cells regenerate, provided one follows a healthy routine for food consumption and rest. If one practises healthy eating during Suhoor and Iftar, it can definitely trigger healthy weight loss by boosting one’s metabolism. Healthy eating would mean balancing all macro nutrients such as proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. In micro nutrients, it would mean making sure the food is fresh with good sources of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

For boosting metabolism and remaining healthy throughout Ramadan, it is advised that during Suhoor and Iftar, one must avoid oily and processed food, and ensure a healthy intake of liquids, water-rich foods and plain water. The diet should typically include large serving of fresh fruits and vegetables, a portion of non-oily, white meat, poultry or fish, small serving of nuts and seeds, whole grains etc. Studies have shown that fasting the right way during Ramadan not only reduces production of insulin, which is the fat storing hormone and breaks insulin resistance, but also triggers the production of norepinephrine which is the growth hormone that triggers fat burning. In addition to that, norephinephrine production also prevents muscle mass depletion.

Adequate sleep is also necessary to keep the metabolism in high gear.

People must also ensure proper hydration during non-fasting hours and adequate sleep during night to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.

Circadian rhythm refers to the human body’s natural sleep and awakening cycle that is sensitive to light and dark. It is a natural trigger message for human beings to rest when the sun sets and wake up at the time of sunrise.

It is advisable therefore, not to spend too many hours awake during the night which can trigger overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol and cause weight gain.

As for exercise, the ideal time to do a high intensity workout to support weight loss and boost metabolism is about two hours after ending the fast. Exercise performance is at its peak when the body has been fully energized and hydrated after Iftar as the body is adequately refuelled.

One should end the fast with a light chicken soup, a small portion of complex carbohydrates such as whole grain food, some dates and nuts. In a couple of hours after ending the fast, when energy levels are revived adequately, one can go in for high-intensity exercise. This will help in fat-burning and stimulate muscle building. Opt for the main dinner after 30-45 minutes of high intensity exercise.

(Dr Jamil Ahmed Specialist Orthopedics and managing director of Prime Healthcare Group)

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These prayer timings are for Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. For Abu Dhabi, add four minutes. Deduct four minutes for Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain, and six minutes for Fujairah.

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